MORE THAN two doctors a week were investigated over “serious” allegations about their conduct in Scotland last year, figures reveal.
The General Medical Council (GMC) looked into 126 claims of misconduct which threatened a doctors’s fitness to practice in 2012 - up from 120 the previous year.
The watchdog also investigated 82 cases last year where the allegation was less serious but may have been a sign of an underlying pattern of poor practice.
But only a small number of cases in the past six years have resulted in doctors being suspended from practice or struck off the medical register.
The Scottish Conservatives, who obtained the figures in a parliamentary question, said officials needed to explain why so few doctors were disciplined despite so many investigations taking place.
The GMC looks at complaints made against doctors to decide where investigations are needed and in the most serious cases refers these to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for a fitness to practice hearing.
The most serious cases are referred to as “stream one”, where the GMC says “the information raises serious allegations which in themselves would call into question the doctor’s fitness to practice”.
In other cases - known as “stream two” - the GMC said the information is less serious but “would be of concern if part of a wider pattern”. In these cases they would contact the doctor’s employers to see if there are any other concerns.
In total, 590 stream one investigations involving Scottish doctors have taken place since 2007, along with 562 stream two probes.
However, only 54 resulted in a fitness to practice hearing. From these, 19 doctors were suspended from practicing for a period of time and a further nine were struck off the medical register.
Scottish Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said: “In an organisation the size of the NHS, particularly given the complexity of cases it deals with, there will always be such investigations.
“But for such a high number to take place, and for that trend to be increasing, it is extremely concerning.
“Patients and relatives need to know that doctors are performing to the very highest of standards, and that when that isn’t happening, action is being taken.
“It is strange that a relatively large number of investigations yield so few disciplinary outcomes.
“We need the Scottish Government to explain why this is, because people will wonder if the hearings aren’t stringent enough.”
NHS Grampian has seen the largest number of doctors facing fitness to practice hearings, with 11 since 2007. In these, two doctors were struck off and seven suspended.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde saw nine doctors facing hearings, with one struck off and two suspended. NHS Lothian also saw nine hearings take place, with one struck off and three suspended.